UA Provides Expertise in Promotora Trainings

Promotoras, or community health workers, are being trained to educate business owners on environmental hazard reduction methods.
June 18, 2009
Dr. Fernando Martinez director of the UA’s BIO5 Institute and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center answers questions during the promotora training.
Dr. Fernando Martinez director of the UA’s BIO5 Institute and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center answers questions during the promotora training.

In an effort to decrease the information gap between academia and communities, two programs housed within The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy are training promotoras to educate communities and businesses.

The UA Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) and the U.S.-Mexico Binational Center for Environmental Sciences and Toxicology (Binational Center) are providing training for promotoras, or community health workers, in the areas of environmental health and science, including asthma and allergies, fundamentals of toxicology, air quality and water infrastructure and sustainability.

The Binational Center is supported by Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva and is co-directed by A. Jay Gandolfi, the director of the UA SRP, and James A. Field.

Ann Marie Wolf of the Sonora Environmental Research Institute, Inc. (SERI), teamed up with Eric Betterton, Denise Moreno Ramirez and Monica Ramirez of the UA Superfund Basic Research Program to set up training programs through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Pollution Prevention grant.

The purpose of the grant is to reduce the amount of hazardous substances entering the environment, conserve energy and water and improve the environmental health of the community through promotoras, who will provide vital information on an array of topics to members of their communities by going door to door.

The UA program is funded to conduct biomedical and environmental research, investigating hazardous waste and public health issues in the Southwest, such as arsenic and mine tailings contamination, and to provide education for the improvement of human health and the environment.

SERI has cultivated a promotora network through one of its programs, the Community Assist of Southern Arizona, or CASA. SERI has worked with CASA by serving on its advisory board, providing training for the promotoras in toxicology and environmental science and providing technical expertise.

CASA delivers educational information on environmental health threats at the community level to families through in-home visits by promotoras, participation in community events and interventions in schools. Now, thanks to the grant, CASA will continue conducting training programs for community businesses.

So far, the CASA promotoras have conducted over a 100 visits under this grant," said Ann Marie Wolf, president of SERI.

"The UA will provide additional trainings for the promotoras that will equip them to effectively communicate pollution prevention and source reduction strategies to the following business sectors: auto maintenance, auto body paint and repair, printing, plating, surface coating, nail and hair salons, woodworking and plastic materials and resins," said Monica Ramirez, research translation coordinator for the UA SRP.

In May, the UA conducted a training session for 15 CASA promotoras, led by Dr. Fernando Martinez, director of the UA's BIO5 Institute and director of the Arizona Respiratory Center.

"Dr. Martinez provided not only general information on asthma but also provided the promotoras with cutting edge research in the areas of asthma, allergies, genetic predispositions and intervention techniques," Monica Ramirez added.

The UA aims to conduct eight training sessions on industry-specific environmental hazard reduction methods, a minimum of 900 business visits and to create community leaders who will ensure long-term sustainability through their commitment to improving the environment.

The next promotora training will be held in August 2009 and will focus on water infrastructure and sustainable practices that can be used within homes to sustain populations in arid and semi-arid regions. Training will include lessons on water recycling and harvesting, a case study on desalination in Mexico and a demonstration on the connections between water use and energy.